A well maintained system of hiker-only and combined hiker/equestrian trails will provide a high quality experience for hikers and horse riders and protect the ecological treasures of the forest. To further protect the forest, all user-made trails that are not suitable for inclusion in the Forest system trail inventory, plus old forest roads that are no longer needed (mostly old logging roads) will be restored to a natural state.
These 80 areas have been specially identified by the State of Illinois for their unique biological and/or geological features. They range in size from under one acre to hundreds of acres. To help protect them, only hiking trails will provide access. Hitching posts for horses will be provided outside of the Natural Area and trails and boundaries will be well marked. In the smallest Natural Areas, any detrimental access will be eliminated.
Throughout the Shawnee, large blocks of contiguous forest without artificial openings, will provide rich habitat for spectacular forest interior bird species like the Scarlet Tanager as well as a unique wilderness experience that is rare in the Midwest. To create the contiguous forest, the Forest Service will aggressively purchase and restore private land in holdings plus corridors to joining isolated areas of the forest. The forest will be expanded to include the Mississippi bottomlands.
Three dedicated wilderness areas, Burke Branch, Ripple Hollow, and Camp Hutchins, will be added to the existing wilderness system. The three areas will have the highest form of protection and present a unique recreational opportunity.
By not allowing the expansion of motorized vehicles such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles on to trails, the Shawnee National Forest is a haven of peace and quiet, an escape from the noise and pollution of motorized vehicles and urban life in general. Motorized use will be restricted to licensed vehicles on existing Forest System roads only.
Shawnee Forest will be a catalyst for instilling in people a sense of stewardship and responsibility for our natural world by providing workshops such as education to appreciate threatened and endangered species, and "Leave No Trace" workshops. There will also be volunteer activities to help care for the forest - such as trail maintenance and ecological restoration projects.
In most of the forest, hiking, camping, horse back riding, and wildlife viewing will continue. To protect sensitive species and habitats, responsible users will have agreed that some areas are off-limits.
Commercial logging will end and as trees mature and die they can provide homes for woodpeckers and owls. Natural forest communities will return, renewing the soils, protecting wildlife, and enhancing recreation.
By working with the IL Dept of Natural Resources, national and local officials, and other concerned organizations, the Forest Service will craft an environmentally sound control plan for non-native exotic species like 'the vine that ate Georgia' (kudzu).
Ending commercial logging, preventing the expansion of motorized vehicles, maintaining high quality trails, eliminating unused roads and illegal user-made trails, and not allowing new mining, oil or gas leases will ensure pristine water and air throughout the Shawnee. High quality streams, such as Big Creek, Lusk Creek, Grand Pierre Creek, and Hutchins Creek will continue to provide quality habitat, fishing, and canoeing.
The Forest Service will recognize and protect the unique biodiversity brought about by the five physiographic regions that converge in the Shawnee.